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Address of Gratitude of the Chaun Lyu Foundataion

Wednesday, September 11, 1991
at the Wilberforce Room, St. John's College, Cambridge

Subject : Address of gratitude to the Chuan Lyu Foundation

By : Professor David L. McMullen

     It is a delight to celebrate the generosity of the Chuan Lyu Foundation to Cambridge this evening and to welcome Dr. Lee Hwalin and Ms. Sue Liu on their brief visit here. The Foundation does not court publicity and this is not the occasion for a long speech. But this evening should not pass without an expression of thanks.

     From well before Dr. Lee's visit, I have found the name Chuan Lyu a very evocative one. It suggests "the river flows [without ceasing]". It is, we have learnt this evening, the given name of Dr. Lee's grandfather. But as if that were not honor enough, the image that it evokes also has, in its own right, ancient and enduring associations in Chinese culture, and it is these that I would like to draw on briefly.

     China is a country of great rivers. From early times they have been the subject of many comments. Confucius himself stood on the banks of a river and remarked, "See how it flows on and on. It sets aside neither day not night [for rest]." Indeed to us this evening, this seems a particularly apt quotation, because we have learnt that Dr. Lee is tireless, and like the river that Confucius surveyed, before sparing time to come to Cambridge for this brief visit, worked so hard that he set aside neither day nor night for rest.

     Rivers, especially the famous rivers of China, may be thought of as great and potent symbols. In the first place, they suggest the endless passage of time, powerful and inexorable in their ceaseless flow from the mountains of the far west to the China sea. They stand for China herself, a great civilization, an uninterrupted tradition that passes through adversity and that no force may interrupt.

     But rivers also affect men's lives on a more individual level. They are the source of fertility and irrigation. They can be channeled and led forth. And from early times the Chinese have built dams and diverted rivers, to the great benefit of the land its yield. Here it is man's intervention that has been crucial, and that has made the difference between prosperity and dearth.

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